Saturday, October 04, 2008

Collateral damage

Rarely have I been so pleased to know nothing about money and have very little of it; in fact, for the first time in my life I feel quite fashionable. It turns out that tightened belts are really in these days, because of a complicated on-going economic phenomenon called the 'sub-morgue overprime greedypigs catastrophe crisis', which, after a lot of painstaking research and staring at graphs and pie charts, I have finally understood to be completely beyond my grasp.

I do know that it’s important, though, and that people are losing their houses and having to live in their cars, and that the bulls and the bears and the circus emcees are all spending a lot of time trying to work out whom to send to the corner wearing the dunce cap. Apparently consensus is increasingly swinging the way of the sharks, who have so far only said “Here’s the bill, and when you bring us the money, ask us no questions and we’ll tell you no lies,” while crossing their dorsal fins. Or something.

It’s all happening in America, which looks very far away, but remains a powerful global trendsetter—hence the old saying, “When the US economy has chest pain, the rest of the world should consider making some lifestyle changes”. Because of this, and because of incredibly sophisticated modern financial structures that you won’t understand either, called 'globaloid credit intercrunching rack-and-ruin linkations', experts speculate that the current scene of hopeless devastation in the US could very well infect the rest of the world in an unpleasant domino effect that will bite ordinary people’s investments and pensions right in the backgammon.

In anticipation of this nasty prospect the whole world might have to stay up all night seated on the edge of its chair, filling landfill after landfill with chewed-off fingernail parings, recalibrating its economic outlook and trying to trim the household budget by examining non-essential expenditure and asking tough questions like, Do we really need this household?

Luckily, according to a banker I recently met, we don’t really have to worry here in India, thanks to our extremely sensible fiscal structures and policies, which provide what’s called the 'prudent insulation slowpoke Sensex conservative thingy'. Besides, our mortgage habits are tailored by the fact that we tend to live with our parents until we win the lottery or our parents die trying to throw us out, whichever comes first, so our version of playing house-house is quite different.

He was very reassuring, though of course it’s possible that his dorsal fins were crossed under his jacket.

If we were playing the same game as the US, however, we’d be way ahead of it, thanks to our long-standing commitment to maintaining high national reserves of roofless, despairing people at all times.

Very important in this enormous financial cock-up is its bearing on the outcome of the US presidential election. The winning ticket, whether it turns out to be Maverick-Moose or Messiah-Motormouth, will have been elected largely on the basis of the public’s faith in the candidates’ ability to chivvy the bulls into action, pamper the bears, smack the sharks, give back the houses, find Osama bin Laden, restore America’s standing in the world (or at least make up with the Allies), and pay for the doctor’s visits and pills to cure the national dyspepsia and headache.

And that, in a nutshell, is what’s going on this week. I hope you’re keeping up; it’s complicated, but if you can just manage to keep your eye on the ball long enough, you’ll get dizzy and fall over.


cowherd said...

"Luckily, according to a banker I recently met, we don’t really have to worry here in India, thanks to our extremely sensible fiscal structures and policies, which provide what’s called the 'prudent insulation slowpoke Sensex conservative thingy'."

Um, I suspect he's either out to lunch or talking his book, if you'll forgive the mixed metaphors.

The Citibank's, HSBC's, Deutsch Bank's etc of the world entered (you could even say birthed) the Indian subprime mortgage in no small part over the last few years. Not to be outdone, local institutions like ICICI followed in hot pursuit.

It's likely just a matter of time before the indigestion becomes audible.

richtofen said...

Q: James, In all these years I have taught you two things.

Bond: Which are...

Q: One - Never let them see you bleed.

Bond: And the other?

Q: Always have an escape plan.

[Q disappears into a concealed hydraulic trapdoor]

I am off to Africa. Will sit this whole mess out till the football world cup.

Tara said...

Forgive my lack of a way with words, but just wanted to place on record how much I love this column and especially this latest post (though the last one about Inhalin' Palin was pretty damn acerbic too). And I totally agree about feeling fashionable now - slumming it fabulously never seemed so decadent. Thank God I have nothing to lose. (No, universe, you do not have to deliberately try to prove me wrong there.)

Anindita said...

LOL...loved this.